Governor-elect Tim Walz announced his selections to head the state Departments of Education, Higher Education and Corrections today. Mary Cathryn Ricker is Walz’ choice to be the next Department of Education Commissioner. Ricker is a St. Paul middle school English teacher and Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers. She admits there are education disparities throughout the state and says “we are cognizant that right now some zip codes deliver different experiences to our students than others, some student experiences remain more valued than others, we will continue to work to change this.”Ricker says she will work with the people of Minnesota to meet the needs of all students. Walz said today Ricker is up to the challenge. Walz chose Paul Schnell as the state’s next Department of Corrections Commissioner. Schnell is currently Chief of Police in Inver Grove Heights and has more than 30 years of professional experience in corrections and public safety. Today he outlined his priorities and says he’ll “work closely with union leadership and the wardens to understand the need for resources to keep staff and everyone in our correctional facilities safe.” Safety is a key issue after several incidents at state facilities over the past year–including the deaths of corrections officers Joseph Gomm and Joe Parise. Schnell says he’ll also prioritize opportunities to help people change and reform while in prison. For Commissioner of Higher Education, Walz selected Dennis Olson, Junior. Olson was born and raised in Cloquet and is currently the Director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. He says he looks forward to “building new relationships and strengthening current partnerships, with the ultimate goal of ensuring equitable access to higher education options for all Minnesotans.” Olson has also served as Commissioner of Education for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and worked in various capacities for the University of Minnesota-Institute on Community Integration.
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